My Bloody Valentine Returns In Stunning Form With ‘m b v’
Published: Wednesday, February 6, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, February 6, 2013 20:02
As if it weren’t hard enough to top one of the most critically acclaimed and beloved albums of the 1990s—some would say of all time—attempting it 22 years later makes it exponentially riskier. But that has not deterred Irish rock band My Bloody Valentine. The group has taken on the challenge and ended fans’ eternal waiting, delivering only its third LP, m b v, this past weekend.
After announcing plans to record a new album, details were scant, though the anticipation quickly built and only got larger over time. The band released m b v through its official website on the night of Feb. 2, after which it immediately crashed due to an overflow of traffic. That’s no surprise, considering this marked one of the most awaited returns in recent music history.
Arguably the leaders of the genre that came to be known as “shoegazing,” My Bloody Valentine won the hearts of alternative and indie rock lovers with their unconventional sound during the late ’80s and early ’90s. Their landmark album, Loveless, a brilliant collection of sounds, stands as the band’s masterpiece and is surely its fans’ most treasured possession.
After 22 years of rumors, broken hopes, and recent live appearances, it’s no surprise that a two-decade gap between Loveless and any new material would make devotees both thrilled and apprehensive. Would the band bring back its trademark sound—that otherworldly droning fuzz? Or would they simply feel washed-up, eager to be relevant again? The result is strictly the former. Despite a few modern touches, m b v is a proper blast from the past that’s sure to overwhelm fans with nostalgia.
For those unfamiliar with My Bloody Valentine, it’s easy to be initially put off. There are no catchy choruses or hooking riffs. Rather, what you get is a clash of effects—heavy guitars that weep, wail, and grunt along to delicate melodies. And don’t bother with the lyrics. Vocalists Kevin Shields’—the band’s mastermind—and Bilinda Butcher’s voices drown beneath the coatings of distortion, creating a layered, universal fuzzball sound gelled together by its various components.
m b v sounds very similar to Loveless. Tracks like “only tomorrow” and “who sees you” echo the 1991 LP and affirm that the band remains true to its origins. Towards the last third of the album, however, and particularly in its final track, “wonder 2,” the band explores a more modern take on its traditional sound. And not all of the songs feature the barrage of overdriven guitars. “is this and yes” opts for a synthesizer, which, coupled with its ambient vocals, paints an almost sublime picture. “new you” actually has discernible lyrics, and is the closest thing in the album to a traditional song.
The album, then, is all atmosphere. It’s the kind of record you listen to when lying on the grass at night, staring off into the sky. And one listen certainly does not do m b v justice. Each song works like an onion: peeling off layer after layer allows you to discover a subtle new sound, producing new feelings. It’s the kind of record that ages better with time and continues to evolve with each listen.
By no means is this an album for everyone, though. My Bloody Valentine’s music may border on the esoteric, but to those who can really get into it, the album is tremendously rewarding, and it makes having waited two decades much more worthwhile. Who knows when My Bloody Valentine will make another record—hopefully the band will be a bit more speedy next time—but for now, m b v packs enough music to satisfy for another 22 years. n